By Krishna Jha
In the five-day session of the Parliament, which was unusual, the themes taken up were certainly not manageable in just five days, but they were all clinched in both the houses. The last session of the Parliament had concluded only on August 11 and coming session is also not very far, as it is in November/December. Obviously, the step was meant to bask in a glory yet to be earned, meant for pre-election days. Despite the growing discontent over the parliamentary processes in the massively populous democracy, leading to boycott by the opposition, the proceedings started. But most shocking was the statement made by a central minister, when he said that the first session was to be the last in the building of British era, the old Parliament House, and the rest of the session would continue in the new building as part of the Hindu nationalist project to reject all colonial legacies.
To get rid of exploitative legacy of colonialism means taking the country and its people out of poverty and backwardness, strengthening the bonds of mutual solidarity among diverse people, and preserving the constitutional mandate of secularism, democracy and federalism. Unfortunately, despite getting a big mandate in each of the two general elections in 2014 and 2019, the BJP government has simply used its power to impose the thinking and ideas of the RSS on our democratic set up. In the process, it is relentlessly dismantling the constitutional principles, bulldozing over people’s aspirations and crushing their voices. Despite its claims, the BJP has been busy in its entire tenure building a dictatorial, majoritarian state that crushes the working people, religious and linguistic minorities, destroys the democratic system, and does not hesitate to violate the rule of law to achieve its ends.
The BJP’s concept of good governance is concentrating all power into the hands of the Centre, modelled on the lines of Manu Smriti, and putting all the medieval regressive ideas into practice, including a second class status for the so called ‘lower’ castes, for minorities, for women, and generally for all those who labour to produce wealth. To meet all this, it has to demolish the Constitution based rule and replace it with autocratic regime. And this is what has been happening in the past nine years. On the very first day, the copies of our Constitution were distributed among the parliamentarians. But tragically, there were parts that were omitted. To mention a few, the first very victims were secularism and socialism from the preamble itself.
People’s issues have no space in parliamentary debates. Laws are passed without getting into its all dimensions in detail. A process of systematic neglect of Parliamentary Committees has been adopted avoiding their opinions. There are instances when important Bills have been passed either without debate or camouflaged as Finance Bills to get them passed!
So far as the power structure of the Centre and the states and their mutual relations are concerned, regional aspirations are always suppressed. Federal structure envisaged by the Constitution has been victim of chronic negligence.
One burning example is GST that is disempowering states. Under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) imposed on the country in 2017, states have no power in deciding what tax rates to impose on which commodities (barring alcohol and petroleum products), a right that was given to them under the Constitution of India. This snatches away the freedom of the states to pursue alternative strategies. The taxation system determined by the central government becomes the feature in which all state governments must fit in. Although there is a GST Council made up of representatives of all states, the Central government has established its own sway over it. As it is, the states’ fiscal position is dire especially after the pandemic. With the imposition of GST their dependence on the Centre has become even more dire. It is a disastrous move that violates the federal structure of the Constitution. GST has been brought in at the demand of the big corporate sector of the country. It has resulted in the squeezing out of the smaller industrialists and ruin of the small trader. Currently some compensation is being paid by the Centre to state governments for the tax revenue losses. But there is not even a flickering flame there.
Another example of the blossoming autocracy is seen in repeated encroachment on the rights of states enshrined in the Constitution. The four Labour Codes and now repealed three agriculture related laws passed by the Parliament are examples of the same. The Labour Codes subsume 29 existing labour laws. Labour is on the concurrent list, meaning it can be legislated upon by both Centre and States. But the government at the Centre passed the Codes because it was in a hurry to favour the corporate sector by introducing hire and fire policies, fixed term employment, increased working hours and reduced minimum wage norms. It has also been putting pressure on the state governments to frame rules under these Codes so that they can be implemented. The farm laws too dealt with agriculture which is under the states’ list. They were repealed earlier this year under immense pressure of the farmers’ movement. (IPA Service)